Effect of owner experience, living environment, and dog characteristics on owner reports of behavior of Argentine Dogos in Italy

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Abstract

Previous research reported contrasting results on the effect of owner experience on dog behaviors. This may be because of dog breed genetic variability, differences in expectations, management choices, and attitude toward their dogs by owners of dogs of different breeds. A study of a single breed may help provide a better insight into this issue. A convenience sample of 94 participants, owners of 181 Argentine Dogos, was recruited to provide information on their dogs' behaviors through a questionnaire. Participants were classified according to their previous general experience or inexperience with dogs and whether they had previously owned an Argentine Dogo (expert vs. naive owners). Reasons for getting a dog (companionship, guarding, hunting, breeding) and attendance at dog-training classes were also explored. Pearson chi-square tests and binary logistic regressions were used to analyze the data. Previous inexperience with dogs was associated with a higher prevalence of dogs that were fearful of children and unknown dogs. Naive Dogo owners perceived that their dogs were more obedient and friendly toward strangers but aggressive toward children, than those belonging to Argentine Dogo experts. It also appeared that living environment and the dog's age are critical predictors of many outcome variables. Kennel living was found to be predictive of car and food protection, owner-directed aggression and aggression toward children, whereas house living was associated with fear of loud noises. Changes related to the dogs' age were probably related to behavioral development in the dogs. Destructiveness, excessive body licking, and protective aggression were more common in younger dogs, whereas aggression to unknown dogs was more common in older ones. Protective aggression was more common in males, and fear of startling noises was more common in females. Intact dogs showed a higher probability of having attention-getting behavior, and neutered dogs were more fearful of traffic. Our findings are correlative. Even if causative links cannot be made, our findings certainly provide direction for further investigation.

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